Content Production and Publishing

from Internet Business

As discussed in an earlier section[1], the Internet has a long history as an alternative publishing medium for those who were more interested in telling their story than in receiving commercial returns for their works. Various proprietary information services[2] traditionally provided electronic access to information for which a commercial price could be extracted and electronic access provided a clear advantage in timeliness or searchability. However the rise of Information Access services and of Financial Transaction Processing has cleared the way for serious commercial Content Production and Publishing on the Net. Also converging with those Net developments, the advent of CD-ROM based 'multimedia' has provided a means for exploring the new media potentials as the Internet moves towards broadband capacity.

The owners of content in other media are increasingly interested in adaptations to the Net as well as in maintaining their roles in the production of content across a range of media. Just as they do for other media, content producers will utilise Net publishing specialists to provide Net-accessible forms of their latest and greatest titles. Whether they be news services, reference collections or entertainment programs, all popular content forms will progressively be made available through the Internet. The big change and the big commercial argument concerns equal access to the Net by fringe producers and publishers who will see it as their first and possibly only medium. It is worth noting that Microsoft which at most had previously only dabbled in computer-specialist book publishing now holds 40% of the market for CD-ROM titles.

However, the Internet may be more than just another medium. Its long term future as a broadband network appears likely to offer replacements for or alternatives to all other media, as well as introducing the completely novel medium of 'cyberspace'. Just as in the early days of other media, current paradigms of style and form for Net-based multimedia, animation, navigation and information retrieval are so primitive that the full potential of these media may be hard for many to appreciate. However, a couple of factors make the Internet a different prospect to earlier media. The Net's potential has already been intensively explored in both serious speculative writing and science fiction, and the propensity of the Net to support rapid development and deployment through boundless collaborations has been clearly evidence by the development of the World Wide Web.

While actual businesses will often employ a mixed strategy, there are two quite distinct models for getting into the Net-based Content Production and Publishing business. One is to provide Net-specific services to established content owners and producers, and the other is to acquire the content which is to be used as a basis for titles that are designed specifically for the Net. While there is expected to be an early shakeout of multimedia business which encounter difficulties breaking into CD-ROM distribution channels, the greatly reduced cost of Net-based distribution is likely to provide an opening for those which best exploit the potentials of the new media and get their timing right with regard to market demographics and availability of transaction processing.

The cost of equipping and training professionals to work with the new media is around $20,000 per head, an investment which is likely to be repaid twice over through the increased fees they can command within their first year. The cost of producing a new multimedia title for the Internet is expected to rise from under $100,000 for the early entrants towards $1 million within a few years. Returns on such titles are expected to follow similar statistical trends to those that have been experienced in the early days of other media. A strong case can be made for establishing Content Production and Publishing businesses which are big enough to spread their risks and therefore likely to build a high market value within three to five years.

[1] see Advertising and Promotion

[2] led by Dialog